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Alberta government to spend $43M in provincial park upgrades and repair

Click to play video 'Albertans rally to try to stop Government from closing, delisting parks' Albertans rally to try to stop Government from closing, delisting parks
WATCH (Sept. 15): A pandemic pause in the Alberta Government’s plans to close 17 parks or recreation sites isn’t stopping users from voicing concerns. As Sarah Offin reports, outdoor and environmental enthusiasts are trying to ensure government cutbacks don’t threaten popular outdoor retreats now or in the future.

The Alberta government is spending $43 million in repairs and improvements to some provincial parks while moving forward with plans to delist others.

Premier Jason Kenney and Environment Minister Jason Nixon made the funding announcement Tuesday at Calgary’s Fish Creek Provincial Park, which is to receive $480,000 over three years for conservation work and visitor programming.

Read more: Abandoned campfire caused wildfire near Canmore, Alta.: investigation

Other parks are to get money for improving trails, upgrading day-use areas and campgrounds and replacing water supply infrastructure. The highest sum, just over $15 million, is to be spent on parks in the Kananaskis region outside Calgary.

The United Conservative government expects the projects to create about 290 jobs.

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Back in March, Nixon announced that the government would be fully or partially closing 20 provincial parks and handing off another 164 to third-party managers. Sites for which no managers could be found are to lose park status and revert to general Crown land.

Nixon has said the parks decision was made to save money. Budget documents have suggested savings of about $5 million.

Nixon said Tuesday that the remote park sites aren’t actually closing but being delisted in a way to better manage them.

“Delisting a provincial park from the park system is not closing the park.

“The reality is that the majority of our special places inside this province are actually protected and managed through the public lands division,” he told reporters.

Read more: Alberta wants to hand off management of 164 provincial parks to focus spending on ‘high-value areas’

“Some of the facilities — it’s a three-hour round trip for provincial park officers to get there to manage that campground. And meanwhile, the whole area around it is protected underneath the public lands system.

“In some cases it makes more sense for us to be able to use those officers to manage that system.”

Nixon said the government is committed to keeping those sites accessible to Albertans.

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Read more: Alberta government’s parks plan another ‘download’: rural municipalities group

The Opposition says the UCP had the chance to reverse its decision on parks Tuesday but did not.

“I have heard from thousands of Albertans all summer that they are deeply worried about Jason Kenney’s plan to close and sell our provincial parks,” NDP Environment and Parks Critic Marlin Schmidt said. “The premier had an opportunity today to reverse that course but he did not.

“Provincial parks are part of Alberta’s identity and economic draw to our province. Government documents that have already been reported on prove that Jason Kenney and Jason Nixon are planning to sell our parks and the premier did nothing today to change that plan.”

— With files from Global News